Political Notebook

Political left assails Costa over Trans-Pacific Partnership

Protesters grather outside of Rep. Jim Costa’s office in downtown Fresno. The gathering of political progressives want Costa to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Costa, a Fresno Democrat, is neutral.
Protesters grather outside of Rep. Jim Costa’s office in downtown Fresno. The gathering of political progressives want Costa to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Costa, a Fresno Democrat, is neutral. The Fresno Bee

Rep. Jim Costa is getting some flak from his left flank, and the reason is the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Costa met Monday with a delegation of progressives from labor and politics at his downtown Fresno office. As he did, protesters loudly rallied against him on the sidewalk below, just across the street from the Convention Center.

The coordinated effort was to push Costa, a Fresno Democrat, to oppose the trade deal, which involves 12 countries across the Asia-Pacific region that represent about 40 percent of the global economy and nearly 500 million consumers.

The TPP was signed in February but still awaits congressional approval. A vote has not been scheduled in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Costa is officially neutral.

“I wish I could say he changed his mind,” Randy Ghan, secretary-treasurer of the Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Central Labor Council, said after the meeting.

Those in the gathering said they asked Costa to take the time to look at the legislation and analyze it thoroughly.

“Meeting regularly with and listening to the people of the 16th Congressional District on a wide-range of issues affecting our Valley and nation are my essential responsibilities as a congressman,” Costa said in a written statement after the meeting.

“Over the past 18 months, I have met with groups and individuals in support and opposition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and I encourage a continued dialogue about the trade deal. We must continue to learn its negative and positive impacts in our Valley, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet with the opposition and supporters of TPP.”

I wish I could say he changed his mind.

Randy Ghan, secretary-treasurer of the Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Central Labor Council

It’s clear, however, that the left is losing patience.

The agreement would reduce tariffs and taxes on U.S. products, which should result in increased exports. Supporters say it would be a boon to agriculture – especially in California. Many local agriculture groups support the trade deal.

But critics say it will result in U.S. job losses that, like American products, will be exported overseas.

Over the past 18 months, I have met with groups and individuals in support and opposition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and I encourage a continued dialogue about the trade deal.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno

Working a microphone along M Street, Stan Santos with the Communication Workers of America Local 9408 called Costa a “career politician” and called on the protesters – including one in a gorilla suit – to “let him know we have been very tolerant of him over the years.”

In an interview, Santos said his union has endorsed Costa’s opponent, Burrel Republican Johnny Tacherra, in the coming election.

“This is a calculated risk,” Santos said. “We’re frustrated with Costa.”

Ghan said both the Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Central Labor Council and the larger California Labor Federation – longtime Costa supporters – are officially neutral in the race, and the reason is that Costa hasn’t come out against the TPP.

Could it lead to a Tacherra endorsement?

“We’re a very democratic organization,” Ghan said. “Anything is possible.”

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